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A unique evening featuring an array of songs from musical theater’s most infamous cads and adored scoundrels — combined with a performance of composer Kurt Weill’s rarely staged masterwork “The Seven Deadly Sins” — will open Western Carolina University’s 2010-11 Mainstage season.

The University Theatre production will stage for two shows only, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, and a 3 p.m. matinee Sunday, Sept. 12, in WCU’s Fine and Performing Arts Center. The show is recommended for mature audiences because of its content.

The first half of the program will spotlight musical theater selections representing the seven deadly sins of sloth, greed, lust, pride, gluttony, anger and envy.

Performed by students from WCU’s School of Stage and Screen and accompanied by a live orchestra, songs will include “Lazy” from “Holiday Inn,” “I Want It Now” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmen” from “Love Birds,” “A Little Priest” from “Sweeney Todd,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miserables.”

The second half of the production is a performance of Weill’s haunting mix of ballet and opera, “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Written on the eve of World War II in Europe, the one-act opera is an exploration of good and evil that tells the story of two sisters, Anna I (the singer) and Anna II (the dancer). The sisters leave their small-town roots to seek their fortune in various big cities, where they encounter the titular seven deadly sins.

Western Carolina’s version of the show is set in contemporary Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast oil spill.

$20 for the general public; $15 for senior citizens and WCU faculty and staff; and $5 for students.

Season tickets also are still available.

828.227.2479 or Contact the School of Stage and Screen at 828.227.7491.


Mountain music, dancing and tradition will be on display on the shores of beautiful Lake Junaluska as the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, now in its 40th year, celebrates the culture and heritage of Western North Carolina.

As in years past, spectators will be treated to performances by more than 200 mountain dancers and musicians at the 2,000-seat historic Stuart Auditorium on the grounds of Lake Junaluska. Each night will feature open tent shows on the lawn beginning at 5 p.m. with main stage performances at 6:30 p.m. The entertainment will continue well into the night with the last performances ending some time after 11 p.m.

The festival is one of the longest running and most authentic folk festivals in the South, and offers spectators the chance to experience a wide variety of the region’s best traditional performers. Scores of the region’s finest fiddlers, banjo players, string bands, ballad singers, buck dancers and square dancers will be in attendance. Visitors will also be treated to the unique regional sounds of the dulcimer, harmonica, Native American flute, bagpipes and spoons, even a bowed carpenter’s saw.

While the festival is sure to entertain the thousands of people who attend, it also serves as a venue to preserve the mountains’ legacy of traditional music and inspire a new generation of artists as they swap tunes and licks, song and stories, under the open tents on the lakeshore.

“Our Appalachian identity with its music, stories, song and dance is something we can be proud of and must share with others to keep it alive. It is an identity that enriches all who experience it,” said festival director Joe Sam Queen.

The Smoky Mountain Folk Festival had its beginnings as a collaboration between Queen and a master fiddler named Earnest Hodges. Queen’s grandfather had passed away shortly before and Queen and his family sought to celebrate the music and dancing his grandfather had loved so much.

“My grandfather Sam Queen made mountain music and dancing such a big part of this community’s life, we wanted to carry on this family tradition and share it with the community just as he had done,” said Queen.

Queen and Hodges put together those early festivals in the high school gymnasium of what is now Waynesville Middle School. They worked together to contact and lineup an extensive collection of mountain artists to perform. The festival was a success for the community, attracting hundreds of visitors and locals each night.

Now a tradition with decades of history, the festival has established itself as a family and community gathering with many performers returning each year to see old friends and make new ones. Families return each year with new generations to enjoy what is one of the richest cultural events of the year.

Main show tickets are $12 at the door, $10 in advance, with children under 12 admitted free. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Haywood County Arts Council at 86 North Main Street in Waynesville or at the Administration Building at Lake Junaluska.

And of course, in keeping with tradition, there is always a complimentary slice of cool watermelon available to all who attend.


To the Editor:

The League of Women Voters is to be commended for conducting a forum in Franklin on Aug. 12 for N.C. State Senate and House candidates for the 2010 election. This allowed constituents to listen to the candidates in person. Although written questions were collected from the voters, time constraints prevented candidates from responding.

After the forum, I spoke with Rep. Phil Haire and Sen. John Snow, asking each how they proposed to bridge the budget gap of roughly $3.5 billion in the 2010-11 state budget.

I was shocked by their elitist attitude and overbearing manner. Rep. Haire, especially, was extremely argumentative and condescending. His only “solution” to the budget deficit was to blame Bush rather than addressing out-of-control spending and unsustainable financial commitments.   

If their replies had been videotaped, they would each have starring roles on You Tube. I advise everyone to speak with elitist incumbents only if someone is video-recording the encounter. Hopefully, the presence of a camera would encourage them to respond in an appropriate manner.

Gail Chapman  



To the Editor:

The move towards sustainability is of paramount importance for the future of our local communities, our nation and this planet. 

To this end, the development of the proposed Creative Arts Building at Haywood Community College plays an integral part.  Some opponents have questioned the effectiveness of renewable technology. Solar powered electricity was discovered in the 1800s and photovoltaic solar energy has powered satellites since the 1950s. Solar electric and thermal are tried and true processes.

As an owner of a solar thermal system, I laugh all the way to the bank every time the sun shines! The model of renting/leasing PV systems from companies as they collect the revenues from the energy produced is already used in several states, including California. This is the same business model used by cell phone companies: you get the phone for a low cost as long as you sign a contract for service.

In addition to the immediate educational and sustainable benefits of the project, the construction will generate many local jobs.  The building will attract interest from all over the country and add to the beauty of the community.

Thus, from a local and global standpoint, construction of the Creative Arts Building presents a win-win situation. Moreover, there are other positive effects such as minimizing our pollution contribution to the area and planet. Perhaps in discussions about the payback for using renewable energy, the benefits (health and otherwise) of not emitting sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, lead, mercury, radioactive material etc. into the air, land and water should be factored into the equation!

The most intelligent choice for the future is to promote cottage industry plus sustainable technology and energy. Keeping this mind, the Haywood County commissioners should move ahead with the project to build the new Creative Arts Building at HCC.

Rudranath Beharrysingh



A debate about how adolescents — and even pre-adolescents — dress these days is a topic that covers a lot of ground, ranging from self-expression to familial relationships. One thing, though, still holds true — public schools should use whatever means reasonable to ensure that students and teachers spend as much time as possible on their studies.

Tuscola High School in Waynesville unveiled a new dress code this year that had some students crying foul. On examination, however, we found that Tuscola’s new rules are not nearly as strict as some other schools in the region and are, by almost all measures, very reasonable.

There is not an adult alive these days who hasn’t seen young girls who, for all intents and purposes, dress like strumpets on a street corner. Excuse the language, but it’s the truth. By the same standards, the rear-end showing pants with belts tightened around their thighs worn by teenage boys are just crude. Couple those with shirts with the sleeves cut off and slit down to the waist, and it’s too much.

Those are harsh judgments, but they are mostly true. If adolescents or adults want to dress that way as they go about their business each day, it’s no one’s business but their own. In a public school, however, it is entirely inappropriate.

This idea of public schools cracking down on inappropriate dress is not new. A generation ago it was guys wearing their hair long and girls forgetting their bras. Each generation has their standards and has to find the right remedy.

Look, it’s a tough road for public schools these days. The job of educating adolescents has never been easy, and distractions that come with too-short shorts, cleavage-showing shirts and pants torn to shreds just make it more difficult.

For the teachers, a dress code that leaves too much to interpretation is an even bigger problem. Tuscola’s approach makes enforcement simple, and it takes the onus off teachers who have enough to do already.

This issue is by turns comical and extremely sensitive. It is also very important. School should be about the education. Needless distractions should be eliminated when possible. Teaching adolescents how to conduct themselves in different social settings is a valuable lesson, and that’s just what a well thought out dress code can help accomplish.


By Natalie Smith • Guest Columnist

One of the most commonly asked questions in life is “Where are you from?” Nowadays when we ask this question to a stranger we get exotic and interesting answers. Home is a relationship. It gives back to you. As you put into it your labors of love, self-expression, and protection, it in turn gives you freedom, shelter and peace of mind. These things are essential to all people everywhere.

These things are what the first European settlers of our homeland killed, deceived, and robbed some of us over — for a place to create their homes and their well being.  This is what people throughout the world are still fighting other people over even as you read this article.

I am always curious to find out just how far people are from their homes when they come here to visit. In the reverse, I also find it satisfying to tell strangers where I am from, that I live among the oldest mountains in the world, where water never stops, where there are unidentified species of life, where magic lives, and where my people have always been.  Then, it usually leads into slightly more detail when they remark that they “thought all Cherokees were in Oklahoma now because of the Trail of Tears.” I very simply say that some of us managed to stay behind in the Motherland where I was born and where the Eastern Band of Cherokee is still living to this day, and that it is where all Cherokee people call home.

Then I enthusiastically top it off with a description of how members of each of the Cherokee groups come home each year to the Mother-town of Kituwah to remember home and remember each other. Most often I run out of time to explain to them the answer of where I am from just the way I want to, or I opt to keep it simple as for not wanting to outdo them because chances are, their answer is not going to be as elaborate. 

Whatever the answer I choose to give the moment that someone asks me where I am from, I often receive their sincere interest or awe. If they are really comfortable with me, sometimes they say, “Man, I wish I was part of a tribe. I can ‘t say WHERE my ancestors are from. I just know that I’m XYZ, PDQ, and ABC.” And that’s when I follow up with “Well, it’s kind of like having a huge family. You get little to no privacy, and you get a big responsibility to make sure your people are OK and that you are OK with your people, and that’s hard to live with sometimes … no, all the time.” 

Nevertheless, I KNOW and appreciate the fact that I am a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, the fact that I HAVE a huge family therefore and therein, I KNOW where my ancestors are from, in fact I know the very piece of land that we started from. For a brief 150 years or so it was used by various farmers and was not for us to freely walk upon or to gather together upon, but it was made just for us by us so it was never truly taken from us. 

Now today we farm there again, we pray there again, we learn there again, and at least once a year, our Oklahoma family comes back home again so we can pick on each other, joke, pray, eat, laugh, flirt, gossip, pinch each other, tell secrets, let our kids run around and get dirty, eat more, laugh more, reminisce, clean up together, laugh even more, and we do this in a way that only we can do. The most amazing part of it is that we do it exactly where our entire tribe started thousands of years ago. The very soil at Kituwah literally has our ancestor’s blood, sweat and tears in it. Our DNA is down there!

And when I go there among you (my people), or among my ancestor’s spirits there, I am home. I am as home as any human being can ever be, and home is everything.

I wish to give a sincere thanks to all (Cherokee and “non”) who support the ongoing efforts of the EBCI governing body, the United Keetoowah Band governing body, and the Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley and Swain County in our responsibility to secure our home at Kituwah, and see that it is loved, protected and respected for generations more of our people to come. Please visit for updates, information and to make donations.


Robert A. Levy, a nationally known expert in the field of constitutional studies, will deliver a talk titled “How the Supreme Court has amended the Constitution” at Western Carolina University.

The free presentation will take place 3:35 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, in the Catamount Room of A.K. Hinds University Center.

Levy is chairman of the board of directors for the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization that conducts independent, nonpartisan research.

Levy’s latest book, co-authored with William Mellor, is The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom.

828.227.7475 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Eduardo Duran, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with the legacy of historical trauma and Native American healing, will visit Western Carolina University to deliver the Biannual Public Lecture on Indian Health

The lecture, “Healing the Soul Wound,” will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, in the Grandroom of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

Duran defines historical trauma as trauma that occurs in families and is passed on to the following generation. Only when the trauma is dealt with will the cycle come to an end.

Duran has focused on creating effective intervention strategies for prevalent problems such as substance abuse, intergenerational trauma and internalized oppression.

He is the author of Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and other Native People, Native American Postcolonial Psychology, and The Buddha in Redface.

A reception and light refreshments will follow the lecture. Contact Lisa Lefler at 828.227.2164, 828.497.7457, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Everything from the authors of the Bible to religious extremism will be covered in two upcoming courses at Southwestern Community College.

“Who Wrote the Bible,” held 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays from Sept. 7 to Oct. 26 at the Jackson Campus. The class will cover archeological discoveries and the translation of newly-discovered languages that have altered perspectives on the Bible’s origins. Students will examine these changes and learn what they mean for people of faith across several religious traditions. The cost is $40.

The second course, “Religious Extremism: From Faith to Fanaticism,” will be held from 10 a.m. until noon on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Southwestern’s Cashiers Center. The cost is $20.

“What is it that makes a person go from religion to aggression, even extremism, and how can this problem be addressed? That’s the main focus of this two-hour course,” said instructor Nicholas Altman.



Are you battling the bulge or want to lose a few extra pounds before the holidays arrive? Take advantage of an eight-week weight management program in Waynesville or learn how to cook healthy meals in Sylva.

• The Cook Smart, Eat Smart Cooking School will offer classes from 9 a.m. until noon on Wednesdays, Sept. 8, 15, 22 and 29, in Sylva. The curriculum teaches cooking techniques that can be used to build a repertoire of entrees and side dishes to encourage preparing and eating more meals at home. Participants will be involved in hands-on food preparation and get to taste the variety of meals created each session. $35. Register at 828.586.4009 by Sept. 30.

• An eight-week weight loss class will be offered at noon and 5:15 p.m. on Mondays in Waynesville. Classes run from Sept. 27 to Nov. 15 and will consist of a 15 minute confidential sign-in period, a 40-45 minute presentation and a 15-20 minute optional walking routine that will be inside and can vary from gentle to moderate. Prizes will be offered to participants.

$20. To register, contact Jean Burton at 828.456.3575 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Sept. 20.


Finding the sweet spot in government regulation, like on a wooden baseball bat, is often difficult. It’s the place where people are protected from the inherent dangers that go hand in hand with many large industrial enterprises while those same businesses are able to make a healthy profit that provides benefits to individuals, local communities and the government to whom it pays taxes. Finding a balance between these often competing interests is challenging.

In fact, in many cases it is left to the business itself to do the right thing. Often owners are so conscientious of their responsibilities there are not any problems. Sometimes those owners are more interested in profit than the safety of their workers or the environment. Other times, human error turns good intentions into unintended — and sometimes catastrophic — results.

The last few months has left many residents in the Allens Creek community of Waynesville wondering if the proper balance has been found between government regulations and free enterprise. The Allens Creek rock quarry owned by Harrison Construction wants to expand operations and is seeking state approval to do so. Residents complaints on several fronts — dust, explosions, the size of the quarry, and sediment runoff — have led to revelations that neither the state nor the federal government is doing a thorough job keeping tabs on the quarry. State officials say their manpower is stretched thin and that they are doing as good a job as possible with the resources they have.

Many people look at a company like Harrison and try to put them in the same league with larger corporate bad guys. That’s a mistake that doesn’t do any good. It’s important that we look at this quarry as an individual entity that is trying to operate within the parameters set forth by state and federal laws.

The real problem is that state regulators aren’t looking out for the well being of those who live near this quarry. It appears from this newspaper’s investigations that the agencies charged with making sure the quarry stays in compliance with state regulations may not be doing a good job. In some cases existing regulations are not strict enough or don’t exist. More than ever, citizens in the Allens Creek community and elsewhere are dependent on regulators and inspectors to look out for their interests.

As this recession lingers, declining tax revenues are forcing the state to take drastic budget measures. There’s little chance more “bureaucrats,” i.e., government regulators and inspectors, will be hired. That’s an unfortunate situation, one that will make fixing this situation more difficult.

Some in the Allens Creek community may wish this quarry did not exist or that it would close. Not us. What we want is for it to be held to the highest standards for operations of its kind. Until that happens, neighbors have every right to keep making noise.



Maggie Valley business owners have seen an uptick in motorcycle enthusiasts with the opening of the Wheels through Time Museum.

Brenda O’Keefe, owner of Joey’s Pancake House, says many more motorcyclists are rushing to the Smokies to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Dragon and other twisty roads.

More motorcycle rallies in Haywood have attracted bikers, but they’re not the kind of bikers most would expect.

O’Keefe said while convertibles were the go-to vehicle for the wealthy in the past, it’s now motorcycles that are the status symbols.

“We see doctors, lawyers, more upper-class people riding expensive bikes,” said David Huskins, director of Smoky Mountain Host, a regional tourism organization.

Moreover, motorcycles aren’t only for males. More females are riding their own bikes rather than taking a backseat.

Visitors who stay

With beautiful environs situated relatively close to major metropolitan areas, WNC has long attracted second- and third-homeowners from Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and other Southeastern states.

Many of these part-time residents visit before buying. The second-home market especially spiked in the mid-1980s and continued to grow — until the recession stopped it in its tracks.

“This is the first recession that actually hit the luxury market,” said David Huskins, director of Smoky Mountain Host, a regional tourism organization. “Previously, they’ve been immune to that.”

Karen Wilmot, Swain County Chamber of Commerce director, testified to a surge of second-home buyers there in the past five years. When folks in Atlanta realize they can get to WNC in three hours, the area shoots up in popularity.

But the Swain Chamber doesn’t deliberately advertise the area as an ideal place for a second residence.

“We don’t really push it as come and live. We push it as come and stay,” said Wilmot.

Word of mouth is the best marketing tool by far, according to Wilmot.


The Smokies have witnessed a noticeable rise in foreign visitors in the last decade. Favorable currency rates and concentrated international marketing have brought more Germans and Brits to the region than ever before.

Many international tourists are flying into Washington, D.C., picking up the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, getting off in Cherokee, then flying back out from Atlanta.

More Scandinavian and Swedish tourists are beginning to join their German, English, Irish and Scottish counterparts in the Smokies.


After Maggie Valley and Waynesville were designated Mountain Heritage Trout Waters cities two years ago, more families are coming to the area to take kids fishing. The designation means anyone can pick up a three-day fishing license for just $5 and check out equipment at discounted prices.

Jackson County has also seen a rise in visitors after instituting a fly-fishing trail and ap two years ago. Visitors are coming from as far away as Texas and Montana for the first time.

Cherokee has also become a fly-fishing Mecca after opening catch-and-release sections on Raven Fork and the Oconaluftee River stocked with trophy trout.


Jackson County is seeing more tourists traveling with pets – so many that it has added a pet icon to its visitor guides to let tourists know which accommodations allow pets.

Julie Spiro, director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, said it may seem like a minor trend, but traveling with pets is becoming more important than ever to consumers.

Over in Macon County, the new Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center in Franklin has led to a rise in traveling concert-goers. Visitors from outside WNC are now heading to Franklin to see their favorite musicians perform.


Hikers and map geeks will revel in poring over a new map of the Bartram Trail being released this week.

The map covers a 75-mile stretch of the Bartram Trail that winds through the Nantahala National Forest of Macon and Swain counties. The map labels campsites and springs for water sources, scenic vistas, prime wildlife viewing areas, picnic areas, canoe access and sundry other points of interest.

“When creating the new map, day hikers, backpackers, exercise runners, nature photographers, wildflower enthusiasts, and area history buffs were all kept in mind,” said Ina Warren, a member of the N.C. Bartram Trail Society.

As a perk, the map has driving directions to many of the trail heads, and phone numbers and locations of forest service ranger stations.

Topo lines are at 50-foot intervals. The map’s scale allows for smaller creeks and finger ridges — ones that usually go unnamed on most maps — to be labeled.

The full-color, two-sided map features heavyweight, glossy paper that will hold up to being hauled in and out of your backpack pocket.

The long-distance trail follows the 1775 route of William Bartram, an early explorer and naturalist, through the region.

Plant collecting in new lands was all the rage during Bartram’s time, often funded by the royal crown back home. Bartram’s journey was popularized at the time in the book Bartram’s Travels. In addition to collecting plant and seed specimens, Bartram described the landscape and the Cherokee Indians with admiration.

In keeping with Bartram’s spirit, the map features native flora and fauna notes from along the trail.

“We hope this attractive, colorful and informative map will excite folks enough to plan a recreation outing or hike in their national forests and gain many years of enjoyment from the map.”

A grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area laid the ground work for the map project and was matched by substantial contributions from the Highlands Biological Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Nantahala Outdoor Center, private donors and members of the Bartram Trail Society.

The Bartram Trail Society has given out over 1,000 free maps to schools, public and college libraries, summer camps, chambers of commerce, visitor centers, nature centers, museums and other groups.

The map goes on sale this week at local outfitters and forest service ranger stations. It may also be ordered online at or by mailing a check for $12 (which includes postage) to NC Bartram Trail Society, P. O. Box 968, Highlands, NC 28741. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


When asked how he felt about the catastrophic BP oil spill, Robert Young paused for the first time during the interview, visibly moved.

“It’s depressing...don’t make me cry,” Young said before walking over to his desktop and opening up a recent home video of his sons enjoying a vacation on the Florida Panhandle.

The water is crystal clear, the sand pure, and his sons are laughing, one riding a boogie board for the very first time.

“I was that boy,” said Young, who heads Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. “The guys are just dying to go back again...We can’t. We can’t go back now.”

Like many others, Young is finding it difficult to find an outlet for his anger.

“It’s not very satisfying getting angry at a multinational corporation,” said Young. “I can’t not buy gas at the BP station in town. It’s locally owned...We can’t hurt BP. That’s what’s so hard.”

Even with no chance of a do-over on the Gulf Coast crisis, Young and his team of coastal scientists at WCU have gotten actively involved in its aftermath, hoping to make a positive impact.

An unusually vocal scientist, Young’s opposition to the current plan of attack — which calls for building sand berms to block oil from reaching the shores — has earned him national attention.

Young has made the rounds, speaking to NPR, Newsweek and the Rachel Maddow Show and writing an op-ed for The New York Times, actively opposing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to construct the sand barriers.

Young said there’s little evidence the barriers would work. They would be susceptible to erosion before the project is even complete, not to mention the slim chance that they would survive the impending hurricane season.

Moreover, the sand berms would alter tidal currents, leading to the erosion of natural barrier islands that protect the coast from hurricanes, Young said.

Even with the EPA speaking out against it, the project is moving ahead with the construction of test sand berms. Young is devoted to continue monitoring the process.

Meanwhile, coastal scientists at WCU’s Shoreline program, including two Western grads, Katie McDowell and Adam Griffith, have captured aerial photography during flyovers off the coast of Louisiana.

Last week, Griffith returned to the state to scope out the damage done along the coastline, accompanying two volunteers from the environmental nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

What Griffith witnessed upon reaching the beach at Isle Grand Terre left him horrified.

“Oil in large pools was evident on the beach. Hermit crabs wandered around next to bubbles of oil while dolphins frolicked in water that wasn’t quite the right color. Foul fumes were ubiquitous and oil could be seen oozing out of the wetlands,” Griffith wrote in a guest blog entry for LA Bucket Brigade.

That oil will undoubtedly gush to more and more locations. Griffith’s goal, like that of the Bucket Brigade, is to amass a large-scale collection of images to archive the environmental disaster as it unfolds in specific locations.

“Hopefully, these images will help remind us what the land should look like,” Griffith writes in closing his blog entry.

Griffith said the BP oil spill has the potential to be one of the most polarizing moments in our lives, almost like an environmental version of the Sept. 11 attacks.

As a coastal scientist, McDowell said she can clearly grasp how the oil spill will impact the ecosystem for years to come.

“You realize how big-scale it’s really going to be, how devastating it’s really going to be,” said McDowell. “You realize how fragile the ecosystem is.”

Though McDowell hasn’t been back to Louisiana since the flyover in April, she would like to devote every single day to studying the oil spill.

“Everyone wishes they could do more than what they’re doing,” said McDowell. “It’s hard because I think about it all day long.”

Western’s internationally renowned program

Unlike most other programs of its kind, WCU’s Program for the Study of Developed Shoreline houses the oft-separated fields of science and policy under one roof.

That places PSDS scientists in a uniquely difficult position.

“The people who solely do policy and management often think we’re naïve scientists who don’t really have a grasp of the intricacies of politics and policy,” said Young. “The scientific community quite frequently decides not to take scientists who communicate regularly with the public as seriously as scientists who sequester themselves in a lab somewhere, and slip their results under the door.”

But since so many scientific programs receive grants — which are funded by taxpayers — Young said it’s imperative that scientists talk to lay people about their findings.

With few scientific journalists left standing, it’s up to scientists to communicate directly to the public, Young said.

For that reason, the coastal scientists that Young hires must have excellent communication skills. McDowell, for instance, tutored at WCU’s writing center as a student.

McDowell is now working on building a national database that details how high the seas have risen in specific locations during past hurricanes.

In a few weeks, WCU Shoreline scientists will assist in dam removal project in Washington state, one of the largest ever projects of its kind.

PSDS has five full-time staff and, seven research fellows from universities around the country, in addition to one from Ireland.

The program, which has been around for about 25 years, was formerly headquartered at Duke University.

Its director, Orrin Pilkey, handed the program over to Young, who was too enamored with the mountains to move back to Duke, where he completed his graduate studies and is now an adjunct professor.

Pilkey serves as a Young’s mentor and collaborator, and continues to participate in shoreline studies program, officially making it a joint effort between Duke and Western.

PSDS scientists work all over the country, in addition to exotic locales like Morocco, Honduras and New Zealand. Much of what they do involves evaluating coastal engineering projects, whether its building beaches or “mining” sand from the beach to use in construction projects.

The program’s ultimate goal is to preserve and support the proper management of the world’s beaches. PSDS scientists not only work to study the impact of development on shores, but also chime in while harmful policies are being pursued.

For example, Young protested against the idea of building a sea wall to protect a road in Florida’s Gulf Highlands National Seashore.

He said the idea would do more harm than good. Moreover, it wouldn’t work to protect the road. Scientifically speaking, it was simply a bad idea.

Young wrote a two-page scientific opinion and got the signatures of 25 coastal geologists from across the country to sign on before sending it to the head of park services. As a result of their combined input, the effort was abandoned.

Often, PSDS scientists are asked why they’re headquartered in the middle of the Appalachian mountains. McDowell seems well-trained on the response.

“Knowing what we know about global warming, sea level rise, and what happens on the coast, we feel a little bit safer here in the mountains,” said McDowell.

Another tangible benefit is being roughly equidistant from the east coast beaches of North and South Carolina as well as the Gulf. McDowell emphasized that people all over the world study coastal geology, whether or not they’re stationed anywhere near the coast.

Science’s role

Though he opposes the idea of sand berms, Young doesn’t have an answer on what would protect the Gulf Coast from the oil already creeping ashore.

Young is curious why the plan now isn’t to place sand on the barrier islands rather than in front of them. He emphasizes that traditional methods like booming and skimming should not be abandoned.

Young got especially vocal after the governor’s office of Louisiana applied for a permit from the Army Corp of Engineers to do massive engineering. He and his team had examined the proposed project and found major flaws.

“We were concerned about spending all that time and energy and manpower on a project that wasn’t going to work,” said Young. “...No one would be happier for me to be wrong than me.”

If the project had any hope of succeeding, its ancillary environmental effects would not matter. But Young sees a miniscule chance at success.

While other scientists probably agree, few have piped up.

“There are scientists all over the east coast and Gulf Coast, and I haven’t heard them,” said McDowell.

Young, McDowell and Griffith argue that there’s an obligation for scientists to share what they know.

“I think there is tremendous value in science intrinsically, but if we can share that with a larger audience, we can maximize benefit,” said Griffith.

For them, science — not politics — must guide efforts to clean up the oil spill.

A team of the best engineers and scientists should be consulted for every aspect of the response to the oil spill, according to Young.

“We should be putting them in rooms and brainstorming for ideas,” said Young. “We should have them on the scene in places — not so we can conduct yearlong studies —but so we can get as many ideas and eyes on this as possible.”

Griffith agrees that discussion on how to go about the cleanup should be a short part of the project.

“I think science’s perspective is valuable, but I think that part of the conversation needs to occur quickly and concisely,” said Griffith.

Grassroots efforts could also play a significant role, and Griffith said he’s sure there are citizen activists out there already cleaning up oil on their own.

Grassroots Mapping, for example, is using citizen volunteers to send up automatic cameras on kites and balloons to take photographs of the oil-stained shoreline. Those images are then stitched together to form a panoramic aerial shot.

“They’re not talking about what to do,” said Griffith. “They’re doing something.”


By Thomas Crowe • Guest Columnist

With the recent rash of mining disasters, oil and gas spills here in the U.S. and worldwide, and the apocalyptic timing of all of these, things have changed. These are not just mere rare random accidents, but coming in such a wave, they are, instead, a kind of ironic epiphany. This is a wake-up call for what has passed for the past two generations or more as the status quo, as “business as usual.”

During the past several years since Bush’s invasion of Iraq, practically all we’ve heard from our government officials and news sources has been “the War on Terror.” Like psychic loudspeakers, this phrase has invaded our sleep. “Terror.” “Terrorists.” “Terrorism.” “Territory.” One would think that there was a terrorist under every bed. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago when it used to be a communist under every bed. All our focus these days seems to be on a few gypsy bands of renegade insurgents somewhere in the Middle East who have the imagined miraculous ability to show up at any given moment on our doorsteps with incendiary and even nuclear bombs — a threat to our inflated American lifestyle if not our very lives.

But all of a sudden, with the enormous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Massey Energy-Upper Big Branch mining explosions in West Virginia and other similar incidents world-wide, it’s beginning to look like our government’s focus on terrorism is terribly misplaced.

Aside from the one-off major terrorist event of the New York Twin Towers, the vast majority of “terrorist” events have come in-house — from the economic infrastructure of the American capitalistic establishment itself. Most recently from Big Coal and Big Oil, incidents have cost considerable human and non-human life and untold environmental destruction with monumental social and economic repercussions.

Since 9/11, terrorist plots and actual attacks on American soil pale in comparison to these Big Energy incidents. Which begs the question: Who are the real terrorists? Who is the real enemy, here? Who is the real threat to our national stability and security?

It seems to me that the billions of dollars we are spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to combat small, dispersed enclaves of Taliban and Al Qaida fundamentalists, as well as, specifically, the man-power invested there of our National Guard troops, are not only being misappropriated but misplaced, when the real war that we should be waging should be right here on American soil and against American corporate terrorism in the form of Big Oil and Big Coal. Instead of aiming Predator drones at nameless Afghan jihadists hiding in the hills on the Pakistani border, shouldn’t we be “bombing” BP with a trillion dollar fine and mandatory clean up and compensations for their failed offshore drilling enterprises? Shouldn’t we be ferreting out the mining company corporate generals hiding in their mansions in the hills of West Virginia and slapping lawsuits on them for their neglect and hitting them with uncompromising regulations?

But even these efforts, in my opinion, don’t go far enough. The U.S. government needs to step in (like they’re trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan) and shut down these companies — until such a time as they can do their job right and do right by all the people they employ and/or are affected by their erroneous errors and accidents.

As we speak, there are at least 900 offshore wells operating in the Gulf of Mexico. How many more “accidents” like the current BP spill are we going to have to endure before BP is held accountable for its profit-driven and indifferent practices? How many more mining disasters are we going to have to endure before Massey and other companies like them are called on the carpet, in just the same fashion as would any small company or business would be who was responsible for similar kinds of destruction and on a lesser scale?

The U.S. Labor Department or some government agency should shut down all Massey mines and make them install all the safety and pollution precautions that they have obviously ignored (in order to cut costs). Big Energy and Big Energy business are the true terrorists. Where is the “War on Big Oil?” Where is the “War on Coal and CO2?” This needs to be our focus and priority, as Big Business has run its course.

If this sounds like socialism to some folks, then so be it. Peak oil is a thing of the past, and big isn’t working anymore. Something has got to give lest we find ourselves on a wasted and desert planet such as are being portrayed in much of our fiction books and film-scripts these days. These Big Energy moguls want their cake and to eat it too — in the name of free-trade capitalism. They can’t have it both ways. Free-trade means you are also free to fail as well as succeed. If a business fails due to its own bad behavior, then, like any small business, it should be allowed to fail. I’m not convinced that the big corporations are “too big to fail.” (Including, and maybe especially, the big banks.)

Yes, a lot of people would lose jobs, but a lot of people are losing jobs anyway. If the government would get focused and get to work on ramping up a campaign to get green energy businesses up and running and affordable (like FDR did with WPA), then a lot of those people would be able to find work in these new “green” industries. And with the big businesses gone, there would be ample room and need for new small business to start up and prosper.

Meanwhile, and in the interim, we can begin helping each other in our own communities to weather the storm of our failing infrastructure and the rebuilding of a new and more sustaining infrastructure. With the country in the midst of an economic crisis, the government in Washington is spending our money in the wrong place. The money they are wasting on two bogus and very expensive wars overseas against invisible “enemies” needs to be being spent right here at home on our own problems and on much more pressing battles with much more dangerous foes.

These battles with Mr. Big are not only being played out in Washington or in corporate boardrooms in large urban cities, but big business bombs are being directed at civilian targets right here in Western North Carolina. We, right here, have our own corporate “terrorists” wreaking economic and environmental havoc in the name of “free enterprise” and “no regulation free-trade capitalism.” Duke Power is a perfect case in point, with its recent attempt to blackmail the people on the Cherokee Reservation over a proposed substation on sacred land. And then there’s the travesty of the new coal-fired power plant over in Rutherford County, which is going to come at the expense of local taxpayers and their health.

So, it’s time to bring Big Business back down to earth. And if the government isn’t going to do it, then the people must. And the first step is callin’ the bad boys out and to speak up and tell it like it is. If I can do it, anyone can. There are a lot of us who are thinking this way and talking in private, expressing our disgust and anger about our country’s current priorities and what’s being done and not being done to get this country back on its feet. In a crowd, when someone falls, a good citizen stops and helps them up. Our country has fallen, and, as good neighbors and concerned citizens, we need to stop and help our flagging country to its feet.

(Thomas Crowe is a writer who lives in Jackson County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)


Rich Kucharski, chief legal counsel for Western Carolina University, became the seventh person in university history to receive one of the institution’s highest honors when the WCU board of trustees presented him with the Trustees’ Award.

Retiring this summer after a quarter-century of service to the university, Kucharski received the award during a surprise presentation as part of the board’s quarterly meeting Friday, June 4. The Trustees’ Award is presented only on rare occasions in recognition of exemplary service to the university, Steve Warren, chairman of the board of trustees, said in announcing the award.

Kucharski has provided legal advice on matters involving or affecting the university since 1985. He also serves as director of technology transfer and started the Office of Technology Transfer in 2004 to provide assistance to faculty and staff who want to see their on-campus creations benefit the public.


Harrison Construction’s rock quarry on Allens Creek in Waynesville mines granite for building roads, driveways and concrete house pads. The raw crushed stone forms the base for roadbeds and is also the main ingredient in asphalt and concrete. Harrison has an asphalt plant next door to its quarry.

Before the recession, demand from private developments fueled demand for the quarry’s stone — around 850,000 tons a year. Now, the quarry is doing half that, said Don Mason, who’s in charge of environmental compliance at Harrison’s quarries in the region.

If it weren’t for the Allens Creek quarry, paving in Haywood County would cost a premium to haul in asphalt and gravel.

“When you have to truck the product that far it gets very very expensive,” Mason said.

Harrison Construction owns seven quarries — one in each of the seven western counties. Together, all seven quarries employ 80 to 90 employees, down from 150 to 170 at the peak of the building boom.

Opponents acknowledge the quarry’s role.

“There ain’t a driveway in Haywood County that don’t have Harrison stone on it,” said Michael Rogers, a neighbor fighting the quarry expansion.


The last Cold Mountain Heritage Tour, sponsored by The Bethel Rural Community Organization, will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 26. This final tour includes some of the most popular and historic sites in Haywood County that have been featured in prior years and new sites that were not available before this year’s tour.

Tour guides will provide visitors on the tour detailed information about the architecture, the history, and the people whose lives gave meaning to the sites. The tour has entertained and informed local people about their own history and has also attracted hundreds of visitors each year from other states and regions who are intrigued by Cold Mountain heritage.

There will be a stop at the Bethel Presbyterian Church, built in 1885, and currently under restoration by the Bethel Rural Community Organization. On the tour is the Bethel Cemetery, the resting place of Pinkney Inman, the Civil War hero of Charles Frazier’s book and subsequent blockbuster movie, Cold Mountain.

The tour will again include the Inman Chapel and Cemetery where Charles Frazier made a surprise appearance last year. Another popular stop is the Blanton-Reece log cabin, one of the oldest structures in Haywood County. This cabin is unique because of its full dovetail corner connections, something that was not common at the time and may account for its preservation for nearly 200 years.

Points of interested that will be featured this year are the Cruso School and Lenoir-Devon Acres.

Cruso School was built in 1928 as a feeder elementary school for Bethel High School, the school closed just before consolidation in 1966. Today, Cruso Community Club utilizes the facility as a community center to promote its many programs: Old Crab Day, thrift shop fashion show and luncheon, quilt show, and Halloween Festival. It houses a mini-library, craft co-op, and a thrift shop. The Community Club has maintained the school building with historic integrity so that tour-goers can regain the feel of what it was like to attend school eighty years ago.

Lenoir Devon Acres is the location of one of the oldest land grants in Haywood County and is one of the county’s longest continuing working farms. The 100-acre farm was home to several generations of Lenoir family members, including Thomas Isaac Lenoir who was the first Captain of the Highlanders, Company F of the 25th Regiment of the North Carolina Volunteers of the Confederate Army. “Inman” of the Cold Mountain story served in this Civil War Company. Thomas Isaac Lenoir brought Devon cattle to the farm in the mid 1800s, and this same line of these gentle cattle is still living on the farm almost 160 years later. When the producers of the Cold Mountain movie were considering a location for the movie, this farm was where the movie was to be filmed until they moved production to Romania.

The Osborne Boundary Oak Tree, which has received some publicity lately, is also on the tour. It has served as a landmark in the Bethel Community since 1792. Dr. Doris Hammett has successfully fought twice to preserve this old oak tree, which is over 200 year old.

Another favorite on the tour is the Truss Bridge #79. This bridge is North Carolina’s oldest working bridge and Haywood County’s only remaining ornamental bridge. The bridge was manufactured in 1891 by the Phoenix Bridge Company and was moved to its present site in 1925 by men in the community who desired to have a passageway across the Pigeon River from Lake Logan Road to Love Joy Road.

Another new location to the tour is the Kinsland House, which dates back to around 1860 and has been remarkably preserved. New to the tour will be the opportunity to purchase the antiques and collectables displayed in the home, thanks to the generosity of the current owner Hugh Kuydendall. There will be a silent auction for the larger furniture items, such as antique beds, one is an original rope bed, and there is also a pie closet.

Tickets for the tour are $15 and can be purchased up to June 25 at Blue Ridge Books and ERA Sunburst Reality in Waynesville. In Bethel, they are available at Jukebox Junction and Riverhouse Acres Campground.

The day of the tour tickets can be purchased only at Bethel Presbyterian Church, the Cruso Community Club, and at the Blanton/Reece Log Cabin.

The tour is an all-day event and tour goers are encouraged to start early. Editions one through six of Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, by local author, Evelyn Coltman will be available for purchase. The Bethel Rural Community Organization’s DVD will also be available, Walking In The Footsteps Of Those Who Came Before Us, which gives the oral history of the area by relatives of some of the original settlers.


Skulker of the tangles

The other morning at 6 o’clock at Hickey Fork in the Pisgah National Forest’s Shelton Laurel Backcountry Area in Madison County, the loud ringing song of a Swainson’s warbler shattered the early morning stillness. The mnemonic for the Swainson’s song is “whee, whee, whee, whip-poor-will, chick.”

I’m not particularly good at hearing mnemonics in birdsong,but the three loud clear introductory notes (I would lengthen them to wheeee, wheeee, wheeee) of the Swainson’s are diagnostic. They are followed by a rapid jumble of notes that ends abruptly and “whip-poor-will, chit” seems as good as anything.

This LBJ (little brown job) is an uncommon skulker of dense rhododendron and mountain laurel tangles generally along creek banks in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I imagine it is initially checked on many birder’s life lists as “heard only.”

Beware if you dive into one of these rhododendron hells in search of a Swainson’s that sounds like it’s “right there.” This little ventriloquist will have you walking in circles as it sings from the ground and/or low in the bushes.

Swainson’s nest across the Southeastern United States and are most often associated with canebrakes. Although Audubon formally described the species in 1834 and named it after English naturalist William Swainson, it wasn’t documented in the Southern Appalachians until the 1930s. The move to the mountains is generally thought to be an extension of the bird’s coastal range with rhododendron slicks substituting for canebrakes.

While the Swainson’s is, indeed, a LBJ, it is a handsome LBJ. It is a warm olive-brown above with a russet cap and a whitish supercilium or eyebrow. It’s breast and belly is cream-colored with immature birds showing a yellowish wash.

In the winter the Swainson’s trades its New World tangles for similar habitat in exotic places like Jamaica, the Yucatan and the West Indies. It has a global conservation ranking of “G4” — “apparently secure.” It is listed as uncommon but not rare. It is state listed as “S3” — vulnerable. This is most likely due to loss and threatened continued loss of habitat.

While it takes patience and perseverance to get good looks at this secretive bird, you can increase your chances by visiting known locations. I heard at least three Swainson’s at Hickey Fork the other morning. We also regularly record Swainson’s at Boone Fork in the Grandfather Ranger District. Jocassee Gorges in South Carolina is said to have one of the densest population of breeding Swainson’s warblers in the region. They may also be found at the newly created Chimney Rock State Park and along Bull Pen road along the Chattooga River near Highlands.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


By Lynda Bennett • Guest Columnist

Protestors in Waynesville recently dismissed Gov. Beverly Perdue’s stimulus grants as simply “baking up” a photo opportunity using pork barrel spending instead of addressing small business concerns. The ruling elite once stated “let them eat cake.” Now they say, “Let them eat Pork Pie.”

The governor’s Main Street Solutions Fund creates more state debt using pork instead of addressing sound economics. The governor is traveling across the state to promote her involvement, including the stop in Waynesville two weeks ago.

The TEA Party protestors offer sustainable solutions that include difficult choices for Raleigh. They assert that “stimulus” spending drains the local economy. The fund is not good for job creation. It does not address the inherent problems in North Carolina’s unattractive taxing structure. The fund creates an unfair advantage for one business at the expense of the other businesses.

For example, one business owner in Waynesville received a $300,000 grant to improve a privately-owned building that will house a brewery, a restaurant and the Haywood County Arts Council. This sounds like a good business plan. But it is not the purpose of state government to spend our tax money on risky business endeavors — at the expense of all other businesses in the region.

This is pork barrel spending, designed to make a media splash at the expense of the taxpayers. It will not help small businesses create jobs across the state.

Sen. Joe Sam Queen, D-Wayneville, and Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, disagree. They voted to expand the program. They endorse even more “incentives” such as the H.E.L.P. program. Incentives take tax money from one group and give it to a special interest ... Allowing government workers to choose who they like best, instead of consumers and buyers picking the best product or business (as in a free market).

The TEA (Taxed Enough Already) movement has a better solution. Several business owners suggest the state could do a better job helping small businesses. The business owners should form an advisory council on free markets to push policies that benefit all businesses instead of a select few. Free markets create jobs, not the government.

Statistics and facts support this claim.

A major problem is the high cost of doing business in the state. The tax hike last year hurt every citizen in North Carolina. North Carolina increased it sales tax by 14 percent during a major recession. Even our local Haywood County commissioners raised property taxes as well. These decisions damage a fragile economy.

“North Carolina has long had one of the top state and local tax burdens in the Southeast and still does,” said author Joseph Coletti, a fiscal and health care policy analyst, writing for the John Locke Foundation. “Residents of the state pay twice as much in state and local taxes, adjusted for inflation, as they did in 1983.”

North Carolina has the fourteenth highest tax structure in the United States. Many say this drain on the economy is a major factor in the state’s high unemployment rate of 10 percent.

“A high tax burden could be justified if it resulted in better performance for the state in health care, education, roads, crime, and income and population growth,” Coletti added.

“But North Carolina’s higher tax burden, to my surprise, has not produced a positive return on investment for taxpayers. Every other state in the South, with the exception of Georgia, has achieved a much better grade for its taxpayers return on investment than North Carolina’s D (grade).”

North Carolina, once a leader in attracting new business, has fallen far behind surrounding states that offer a more attractive tax structure.

Instead, North Carolina offers a “progressive” approach of special “tax incentives” in which government officials choose special interests to receive favorable treatment. This does not create a level playing field. Incentives are not working.

“The combination of a higher in-state tax burden and lower burdens in the rest of the country has put North Carolina at or above the national tax-burden average with increasing frequency and weakened the state’s competitiveness within the United States and internationally,” Coletti said.

Business leaders and TEA protestors suggest that a level playing field would be more attractive to new business and existing business as well.

The level playing field is broad-based: reductions in both business and personal state income tax across the board; lower sales tax on most purchases in the state; reduce or eliminate license fees; a quick start program to fast track the permitting and inspections process for new business; stop all incentives and pork spending.

“Government has far exceeded its proper bounds, both in cost and intrusiveness. It doesn’t deliver on its legitimate promises — to protect our individual rights and ensure the delivery of core public services.

“And it can’t deliver on its illegitimate promises – to fund massive pension, health care, and education entitlements without ruinous tax increases,” states John Hood, of the JLF. (

Small Business & Entrepreneurship (SBE) Council President Karen Kerrigan added: “We applaud the political leaders of states who have refrained from raising taxes on the nation’s job creators.”

“States that have kept taxes low will reap rewards as their businesses recover more quickly and shore up durability for the long term. Low-tax states will become even more competitive for investment and business relocation” (

Progressive politicians gather on Main Street to hand out money they do not have ... in exchange for photo ops.

When the state government inserts “stimulus” into the market, the effect is the exact opposite. They remove cash from the local economy, creating shortage at the local level. The “stimulus” destroys local jobs in Haywood County.

Keating from SBE added: “Quite simply, economic recovery will be restrained by high and/or increasing taxes, or boosted by low and/or falling taxes. Governors and legislators have a choice.”

In the minds of these protesters, Raleigh created the problem, and pork barrel spending is not the solution. “We the business people” have solutions that work.

The protestors want to be sure this alternate point of view is heard in Raleigh and on Main Street.

(Lynda Bennett is a businesswoman who lives in Maggie Valley.)


Hundreds of chefs gathered in Washington, D.C., Friday, June 4, to launch Chefs Move to Schools, a program designed to get healthy food into cafeterias.

Among their ranks was Charles Hudson, the research and development chef for Sunburst Trout Company in Haywood County.

The chefs, clad in their hats and uniforms, sat in the hot afternoon sun on the White House’s South Lawn as First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about the importance of children eating healthy.

“You all know how the ingredients we put in our bodies can affect the way we feel, the way we think, and how we grow,” Obama said in her speech to the chefs. “This is especially true when we’re talking about our nation’s kids.”

Earlier in the day, Hudson and the other chefs toured the White House garden where Hudson “oohed” and “aahed” about broccoli, yellow cauliflower, an abundance of fresh herbs and a beehive.

“I think that was the most beautiful broccoli I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

Hudson learned ways to get children excited about healthy food and expand on some ideas he’s started. He’d like to grow afterschool culinary clubs and partner middle-school students with elementary students.

He’s already cooked for students at Central Elementary School in Haywood County. At first, 90 percent of the kids turned their noses up at trout sausage and wouldn’t try it, he said. But after he gave the kids the chance to cook it themselves, almost all of them liked it.

“The biggest thing is to get them involved with the cooking process,” Hudson said. “It’s something to give them ownership, something they can take pride in.”

He suggests parents let their kids help cook, take their kids to a tailgate market to sample products, or pick produce with their families.

CEO of Sunburst Trout, Sally Eason, hired Hudson to be the farm’s development chef in 2005. His job is to help develop new products, and some of the most recent ideas include fish sticks called “Sunburst Sticks” and frozen dinners.

“It required a serious leap of faith but was a brilliant move,” Eason said. “We’re trying out new products every day.”

Sunburst produces trout burgers, cakes, encrusted fillets, sausage, trout dip, trout jerky and caviar.

While the trout is found on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus throughout the South, as well as in three Asheville retirement communities, Eason said she would like to expand to hospitals, college dining halls and school cafeterias.

“For the first time in my life, there is a possibility that aquaculture will become a viable business, and it’s because fish is so healthy, and people are realizing that,” Eason said.


A river tubing trip on a sunny day ended in tragedy last week when a recent Western Carolina University grad drowned.

Allen Stanley Brisson, 22, of Cullowhee was tubing with friends on the Tuckasegee River on June 3. According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the group had been drinking when Brisson fell from his inner tube and disappeared into the water on a stretch of rapids below Dillsboro.

Brisson’s friends searched for him to no avail before one of them ran to a nearby vacant house and called 911.

Rescuers responded to the scene and began a search that lasted late into the evening. The rescue team, which included volunteers from the nearby rafting outfitters Dillsboro River Company and Tuckaseigee Outfitters, erected emergency nets along the river to aid in the search, but the effort was suspended just prior to 11 p.m. due to poor visibility.

Search and rescue efforts resumed at 8 a.m. on June 4 with the help of air support and a swift water rescue team. Brisson’s body was discovered around noon submerged in a deep pool.

A release from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department said Brisson’s body would be submitted for an autopsy and the investigation into the events leading up to drowning is ongoing.

Brisson, originally from Fayetteville, graduated from WCU in May with a bachelor’s degree in management.

Sam Miller, WCU’s vice chancellor for student affairs, said the university’s thoughts were with Brisson’s family.

“The loss of a life so young and so full of potential is tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Allen’s family, and with his friends and classmates,” Miller said.


A 92-acre tract near the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River in the Bethel community in Haywood County has been protected through a conservation agreement by the property owner.

“We are very grateful to everyone involved in this project — and most of all to the landowner — for showing such a great commitment to keeping Bethel rural,” said Steve Eaffaldano, President of the Bethel Rural Community Organization. “We have more work to do to keep Bethel’s rural nature going strong, and we are hopeful that other landowners will consider similar actions to conserve their lands.”

The property owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, entered a conservation agreement with the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District. The landowner still owns the land and can continue using it, including farming and limited logging, and can also sell it or pass it along to heirs, but the conservation agreement ensures it remains undeveloped forever.

The land includes more than 6,000 feet of headwater streams that provide water for downstream farmers, drinking water people in Canton and Clyde, industrial water for the Canton paper mill, trout habitat, one species of rare fish, two species of rare freshwater mussels and hellbender salamanders.

Project supporters included the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District, the Southwestern NC RC&D Council, the Bethel Rural Community Organization, and the Pigeon River Fund, which has provided several grants to help protect water quality in the Pigeon River Valley by protecting rural lands.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828. 712.6474.


An 8,000 acre tract in Transylvania County, the largest block of privately owned wilderness in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, may soon be protected if enough funds can be raised.

The landowner, former Congressman Charles Taylor who is also a logger and cattle rancher, has agreed to sell the land for $33 million to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund. The selling price is a good deal at less than half the appraised value, but will still require substantial fundraising to make the conservation a reality.

“This is the last opportunity we will have to acquire such a sizable and significant tract in the southern Appalachians for conservation ownership ever again,” said Dick Ludington, southeast regional director of TCF.

The nonprofit land trusts hopes to raise the money to protect the tract, and then transfer the land to a public entity that would allow for public recreation including hunting, fishing, hiking and other uses.

“The Taylor family has offered the opportunity to add another jewel to the crown of conserved land in western North Carolina,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of CMLC.

The tract was owned by Taylor through his corporate entity, Champion Cattle and Tree Farms.

The acquisition project will open up over 50 miles of streams teeming with trout. The tract is home to rare plant communities, including pockets of Southern Appalachian bog, and lies atop the Blue Ridge escarpment, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in world.

Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, philanthropists that champion land conservation in the mountains, have expressed an interest in donating a portion of the necessary funding.

828.697.5777, ext. 201 or


A couple of stories we’ve covered in the last two weeks illustrate better than any data the new face of economic development here in the mountains. Community coordinators paid with tax dollars can help small businesses grow in our post-manufacturing economy.

Joey Bolado, the owner and chef at Grandview Lodge in Waynesville, would like to serve only fresh, local foods on his menu, everything from produce to meat. In today’s marketplace it just doesn’t work, despite his desires.

“Right now, I feel like I have to go out and find it,” Bolado said of the local produce. “They’re not coming to us.”

The Buy Haywood initiative, which is funded by the state’s Golden LEAF Foundation, promotes Haywood’s farms. It has helped market value-added products like salsa, jams and sauces made from local agricultural operations and has produced a map so locals and tourists alike can find farms and farmer’s markets that sell produce.

Now, it is working to connect local restaurants and chefs — like Bolado — to local growers. The new program is called 20-20-20, because its goal is to connect 20 local growers with 20 chefs who will use 20 different products.

The problems for the farmers and chefs are obvious, says Buy Haywood Coordinator George Ivey. Growers need to be in the fields rather than on the phone marketing, so they are much more likely to look for one or two large buyers rather than 20 small ones who only want a few products. Restaurant owners and chefs need convenience and variety, which doesn’t always fit with the production constraints of local growers.

The 20-20-20 project is trying to overcome these obstacles. It will succeed only if both parties can profit from the transaction. It also will take a change of mindset, a realization that there is value in making the local-to-local economy more robust.

Ivey’s efforts are similar to those of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, which is a sort of regional version of Buy Haywood that promotes farm products from the southern mountain region.

“People mistakenly assume that just because someone has a product and somebody else wants a product, that’s a match,” said Peter Marks, ASAP’s program director. “There are so many other factors, like the ripeness, the uniqueness, the packaging.”

Ivey, Marks and others won’t solve this problem tomorrow, but I have not doubt that this is the future. As the locavore — someone who only eats foods grown locally — movement grows, more people will pay a few cents extra for fresh produce grown by their neighbors a few coves over. This is dovetailing with efforts to create local economies that support businesses down the street instead of across the globe.


Another partnership was also in the news last week, one that brought Gov. Beverly Perdue to Waynesville and other parts of Western North Carolina. A project that would transform Main Street’s Strand Theater into a restaurant, brewery and entertainment venue got a $300,000 state grant, and it drew a crowd into the Arts Council’s Gallery 86 to hear Perdue discuss efforts to promote jobs in the state’s small downtowns.

Getting that grant required a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and that is what’s worth noting here. Downtown Waynesville Association Executive Director Buffy Messer knows what is going on in the downtown business district, and she knew Richard Miller was looking for a way to jumpstart his vision for the Strand.

She also realized that these Main Street Solutions grants were a good fit, and that time was running out to apply. Messer worked closely with Miller to put the pieces together to get the state grant

“I give her all the credit for bringing this to our attention,” said Miller.

Like Ivey’s work with the local growers and chefs, Messer’s work with small businessmen like Miller is exactly the kind of economic development that will help Haywood and other mountain counties thrive in the future.

Using state grant money — essentially our money — in this manner is certainly more appealing than awarding a multi-million dollar tax break to some huge corporation that could care less about this region. Right now just about all Southern states are way too deep into this game of trying to lure the Googles and the Toyotas of the world through tax breaks that are, to be frank, obscene. Meanwhile, the local factory or small business that’s been around for decades just keeps busting butt to hang on. That scenario always leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth.

Our mountain region is unique for many reasons, but its enduring spirit of independence may be what keeps it strong during the next several decades. This area was living the “buy local” movement before it had a name. We have a good mix of businesses that are helped by a steady flow of newcomers and visitors. It’s a good mix for a strong economy that doesn’t need to sell its soul to some huge manufacturer.


Catch the Spirit of Appalachia and the Appalachian Homestead Farm & Preserve recently presented a hand pieced, appliquéd quilt of Jackson County to the staff of Jackson County Recreation Center for its assistance for the past five years with the Patchwork Folk and Fabric Festival held at he center.

To make the display of the quilt more fun, a scavenger hunt has been created for those who would like to find some of the more than 78 items — sports, towns, lakes, natural showplaces, animals, river and more — depicted within the outline of Jackson County.”

The fifth annual Patchwork Folk & Fabric Festival will take place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at the recreation center. 828.293.3053.


Many people might say Lilian Parks is a staple to the regional art community. “Lil” as she is known to her students and fellow artists, is originally from San Francisco and has lived in Haywood County for more than 20 years. She came to the mountains by way of New York, Atlanta, Miami, and Hawaii, all the while painting and cultivating a following.

With more than 30 years of experience teaching both private lessons and classes, she is well-suited to teach at Haywood Community College.

“She not only instructs, she inspires,” said Laura Simmons of Community Education at HCC.

Parks says she tries to pass on an appreciation for creating art even if students aren’t pursuing it as a profession.

“This is why I am more thorough in teaching and encouraging the student to develop their own style as an artist,” said Parks. “If a person enjoys creating art, he or she will never be bored. It is a lifetime of learning, and I am still learning.”

Lil is a member of the Blue Ridge Watermedia Society and numerous other organizations. Her work can be found in private and corporate collections and has been recognized locally and throughout the United States.. Lil will soon teach “Journaling for the Artist.”

“You can create a storybook illustrating your travels. It’s a way to capture your memory of what you’ve seen,” said student Wendy Cordwell.

Learn from Lil

Lilian Parks will teach “Journaling for the Artist” from 1 to 4 p.m. June 17 to July 29. Parks will teach Pen and Ink from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. June 15 to July 20; Finishing Your Masterpiece, a new class in which Parks will give students individual instruction in completing and finishing a work currently in progress or help tackling a new challenge, from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. June 17 to July 29. All classes are six weeks long and $60 per class.

For more info, call Laura Simmons at 828.565.4244. To register, 828.627.4505 or


Supported by the Golden LEAF Foundation since 2007, Buy Haywood has enjoyed success promoting the county’s farms.

Its first project targeted grocery store chains and successfully enlisted Whole Foods, Ingles, Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Lowes Food and others into carrying tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers grown in Haywood.

Next, it tackled the limitations of a short growing season and encouraged farmers to create “value-added products,” like salsa, jams and sauces to keep their products on the shelves year-round.

The group has also published a handy farm map to point tourists and locals alike to scores of Haywood’s farms, farm stands and farmer’s markets.

Now, the project’s organizers are tackling the challenge of connecting farmers with local restaurateurs.


Western Carolina University’s quintet in residence should consider letting the Travel Channel tag along before embarking on its next international tour.

After returning from China last month, the Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet can count 49 first-time foods tasted in 14 days of travel.

The long list includes some intriguing items like yam noodles, lotus root, dragon fruit, and glutinous rice. But other novelties would more likely make stomachs lurch: pig penis, sheep stomach, goose liver, shrimp eggs, turtle, and black fungus, to name a few.

Surpassing all that hands-down and nearly reaching legendary status, though, is the drunken shrimp. Eating that correctly involves biting the head off live shrimp drenched in baijiu, a clear Chinese liquor.

Not all five musicians ventured to experiment as a few feisty shrimp leaped from the bowl, one landing as far as the floor.

As for the verdict, a video capturing the gross-out moment (for Westerners) shows trombonist Dan Cherry declaring that it tasted ... pretty much like you’d expect raw shrimp to taste.

Trumpeter Brad Ulrich, who co-founded the quintet with fellow trumpet player David Ginn in 1993, was brave enough to try the dish first. Ulrich also picked up the skill of opening up a bottle of beer with chopsticks during the trip.

Even with all the bizarre foods, the quintet has come back from their tour raving about Chinese food — the authentic kind. Most meals took place around a large round table with a Lazy Susan in the middle piled with 14 or 15 different dishes. Everything was fresh, healthy and delicious.

“If you order fish [here], it’s been dead for a long time,” said Ulrich. “There, they take it out of an aquarium.”

Every place they visited offered something new, with each province specializing in a different dish.

“I can’t eat Chinese here anymore,” said Ulrich. “It’s not the same.”

Despite a grueling schedule with eight concerts on eight consecutive nights, the quintet obviously didn’t forget to set aside time for fun on the trip.

“We’re like family. It’s rare to have brass faculty that gets along as well as we do,” said Ulrich. “On these tours, it’s nonstop laughter, crying until our ribs hurt.”

The quintet is made up of those who have taught or are teaching at Western, including Travis Bennett on horn and Michael Schallock on tuba.

SMBQ is also a registered nonprofit that has helped raise money for the new library in Jackson County, for the local art council and for the Jackson County band program. It helped raise $14,500 for National Alzheimer’s Day in 2007.

On the China trip, the quintet was accompanied by Will Peebles, director of WCU’s School of Music, and China liaison Tang Cai.

Schallock said there was never a dull moment. “We just went with our eyes wide open from place to place and from person to person ... what we learned was enlightening and exciting.”

Cultural ambassadors

SMBQ’s international tours serve many purposes, but their chief function is to promote Western Carolina University to students and professors who may want to spend a semester or two in Cullowhee.

The idea for a tour came about after Ulrich was invited to perform in an international trumpet festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, about five years ago. Ulrich persuaded his bandmates to join him in performances abroad. It became a tradition, and the next international tour took them to the U.K.

As the quintet experiences the excitement (and exhaustion) of touring internationally, they promote cultural exchange.

SMBQ builds relationships with administrators, faculty and students at sister schools abroad. Those relationships help bring about an increase in the number of students who come to WCU or those who study abroad at sister schools in China.

Though many associate China with business and assume students who study abroad there are interested mostly in economics, Ulrich says art and culture are just as relevant.

“Music, art and dance — it’s all an extremely important part of the way they function and think,” said Ulrich. “You can’t neglect culture when you’re talking about economic development.”

Most of the concerts during the 14-day tour took place in packed halls at Western’s sister schools in China. Despite offering 300 to 500 seats, throngs of people still had to be turned away. SMBQ certainly didn’t spare any efforts to impress the crowd they had.

“We did not leave any performance without being soaked with sweat,” said Schallock. “We gave everything that we had.”

The five would often be swarmed by requests from concertgoers for photographs and autographs after the shows were through. Treated like rock stars, WCU’s resident brass quintet was surprised and amused to find their faces on cardboard cutouts or gigantic posters at the concert halls.

The quintet typically emphasizes pieces from Southern Appalachia and original compositions from WCU faculty, but they added a few Chinese songs to its repertoire, much to the audience’s approval.

“We couldn’t get through a piece, and they would be applauding wildly,” said Ulrich.

Ulrich says the Chinese viewed the visiting quintet’s performance of traditional folk songs as a sign of respect.

“We learned a lot about their culture doing it,” said Ulrich.

The quintet took the time to arrange the popular folk songs played on traditional Chinese instruments into pieces suitable for brass.

The musicians researched on YouTube and listened to CDs, but it wasn’t until they reached China that they got an authentic feel for the songs.

“We heard people singing and humming some of these tunes on the street,” said Schallock. “Folk players who would play traditional flutes in the park, we’d hear them playing these tunes.”

After visiting the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Chinese cities sometimes four times bigger than New York, SMBQ are once again back home in Western North Carolina.

Less than a week later, they were performing a Sunday concert in Clyde. Their eyes are already set on the next stop abroad: Germany.

Visit for more information, photos and the infamous drunken shrimp video.


The Cherokee uses and ecology of river cane will be discussed during a guided walk from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, June 9, in Franklin.

“We Brake for River Cane” will discuss biology and ecology of canebrakes, and the cultural and historic importance of this plant to the Cherokee Indians, who had more than 30 traditional uses for the plant. A demonstration will feature one of those uses.

The program along the Little Tennessee Greenway will be led by David Cozzo, an ethnobotanist; Darry Wood, a Native American earth skills expert; and Dennis Desmond, stewardship director for Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.

Meet at the Rotary Shelter at the Airport Trail entrance behind Macon News. 828.349.5201.


It doesn’t get much fresher than this.

Horticulture students at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva are helping to feed their peers by supplying the school cafeteria with lettuce.

Students are growing lettuce hydroponically in a greenhouse, where plant roots grow in a nutrient-rich water rather than soil.

“Our students are really benefitting from this program,” said Jeremy Jones, the horticulture teacher. “Not only are they learning about an important agricultural process, they’re also getting to see the results of their work as the lettuce ends up in salads in the cafeteria where they eat.”

The idea was initiated by Jackson County Schools Nutrition Director Jim Hill, who brought the idea with him from Haywood Community College. Horticulture students there do the same thing.

It took a while to perfect the growing system and experiment with varieties of leaf lettuce that would produce the most yield.

Students in the horticulture class learned how to harvest the leaves for the first time recently. By taking the outside leaves and leaving the new growth in the center, the plant will continue to produce a harvest for quite some time. Students have also had the benefit of a visit from Jackson County Farmer William Shelton, owner of Shelton Family Farms, who has been growing hydroponic bibb lettuce for commercial sale for 24 years. His firsthand experience has encouraged several students to consider this as a successful alternative to conventional farming.


The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre kicks off summer with a hilarious backstage romp “Falling in Like” an “almost romantic comedy” written and directed by the playwright Jerry Sipp.

This performance is a unique opportunity to have a playwright come into the community as a guest artist to oversee the production. Sipp has had a long association with HART and its executive director Steve Lloyd.

“Falling in Like” premiered a few years ago in Raleigh and opened to rave reviews. It went on to win the North Carolina New Play Project Award and was awarded “Best New Script” by The Independent in Raleigh.

The show tells the story of leading man Frank who helps Abbie go from intern to ingénue when the leading lady pops a kneecap in rehearsal. The good deed leads to a romantic pursuit, and Frank has to fend off Abbie’s increasingly insistent attempts to get to know him. The show crackles with one liners and backstage antics.

Lloyd and Sipp met in 1983 when both were studying theatre at UNC-Greensboro. They were cast opposite one another in “Deathtrap” and became close friends almost immediately.

While living in L.A., Lloyd wrote a play about brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth and sent it to Jerry. The two-character piece was intended as a vehicle for the two of them. Sipp liked it and so did the head of the UNC-G professional summer theater, who agreed to hire them as guest artists and produce the premier. “The Actor and The Assassin” was picked up by an agent in Atlanta then later New York, and Lloyd and Sipp toured in the show for the next 17 years, performing in Europe, at the Kennedy Center and in New York.

Lloyd became a Visiting Artist at Haywood Community College which brought him to HART. Sipp became a Visiting Artist at Catawba Valley Community College and later the Executive Director of the Playhouse Theatre in Rocky Mount, NC.

The Playhouse and HART became sister theatres for several years, trading productions each season. Then came Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The storm completely destroyed The Playhouse Theater, ending that collaboration. Sipp became the Executive Director of Temple Theatre, a professional company in Sanford and a playwright. “Falling In Like” offers an opportunity for Lloyd, Sipp and the folks at HART to reunite for the first time since the destruction of the playhouse.

The show has a great cast including Jennifer Sanner, David Dvorscak, Jeff Messer, Allison Stinson, Preston Tinsley, Shanda Jacobs and Christopher Martin.

“Falling In Like” has performances at 7 p.m. June 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12; and 3 p.m. June 6 and 13.

$18 adult, $16 seniors and $8 for students with $5 discount tickets for students for Thursday and Sunday performances. Box Office Hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 828.456.6322 for reservations.


By Brent Martin

I went down to the water but he left me in the mud; I wanted me some wine but he turned it into blood.

— from the Dean Williams painting, “Jesus gave me the blues”.

A little over two years ago, I began spending a significant amount of time in a drab and windowless little downtown Andrews storefront known only to its occupant and a handful of others as Static King Studio. The studio belonged to the late musical wizard Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse, who was producing my wife’s album, and though it contained world-class recording equipment, it had no bathroom. When I asked where he normally relieved himself, he pointed out the door and down the street to Dean’s Records and Outsider Art, and said “Just tell Dean you’re over here with me, and that you need to use his bathroom. You probably won’t be back for a while though; you’ll dig his art.”

That simple trip to the bathroom established a relationship for me with a self-taught painter who is producing some of the most interesting folk art west of Asheville.

Dean’s store is large, with high wooden walls and paintings hung salon style floor to ceiling. Vinyl records and CDs are arranged in perfectly organized rows down the main length of the floor, and bookshelves filled with used books make up the contents of one corner. The entrance is boldly colored with brightly lit windows filled with kitsch and other interesting objets d’arte. One’s first impression from the outside is this: something different is going on in here. It’s an unlikely find in this remote western corner of the state and well worth the trip.

Mark was right about my slow return, and I found myself spending more than an hour on that first bathroom excursion, lost in Dean’s diverse and expressive cast of phantasmagoric characters, painted upon old wood and beadboard which he finds and glues together in panels. With subject matter ranging across blues music, religion, fried chicken, cheap beer, and other things local, there seems to be something for everybody interested in the Southern folk art genre.

When asked about his influences — like most folk artists — he cites sources other than what fine artists traditionally call forth. “Most of the art that has made an impact on me came from sources other than the world of fine art. Album cover art, beer bottle labels, and matchbook ads were always fascinating,” he explains to me one late Friday afternoon over libations, after the store has closed and the Andrews Main Street has been rolled up for the evening. “As I became more obsessed with blues music, the subject matter of the black culture of the South set off a spark of creativity that had been planted by years of the heaven and hell religious dogma that had directed much of my childhood. Whether there was actually a God and a devil, or simply a struggle within each human being, blues music seemed to be a testament of this battle. I realized that art and music both possessed the same power to exorcise these forces.”

This answer is one I can relate to, and one that explains much of my own interest in folk art. When the rock band The Talking Heads released their hit album Little Creatures in 1985, I spent as much time studying the cover art as I did listening to the music. I was living in Georgia at the time, and when I learned that the artist whose painting adorned the cover, Howard Finster, was only an hour away, I soon began to make pilgrimages to explore his sprawling artscape known as Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Ga.

That was my first introduction to the genre known as folk art, which can be defined generally as art produced without formal training, often accomplished in isolation and reflecting the customs and traditions of a particular community, and free from the competitive world of academics and social promotion.

Finster’s work is emblematic of this form of creative expression, and to wander among his towers made of old bicycles, eccentric outbuildings constructed of Mason jars, coke bottles, and junk, along with his prolific collection of scripture laden paintings of Elvis and other pop culture icons confirms this widely held opinion.

Dean is of course familiar with Finster, as well as other great folk artists in our region, and it is perhaps no accident that his birth in Johnson City, Tenn., in 1962 was not far from the Museum of Appalachia, home to one of most representative collections of primitive folk art in the South. He drew all of the time as a child, and when his family moved to Andrews in 1968 he was sick a lot, which increased the amount of time he spent with this early passion, most of it drawing with simple felt tip markers.

“I never sought out art and lived in a household where neither art nor music were important. All of my work was inspired by imagination and was a way to escape the meaningless world around me. I drew in school and gradually declined academically. I quit school in the tenth grade in the middle of a math test. Music became an obsession by the time I was 16,” he tells me, taking another pull from the sweaty Budweiser and waving his hand towards his large vinyl collection. “My first records were Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd. Most of my art from this time period was music inspired. I eventually became more connected to the American blues that had inspired these musicians.”

He began drawing more during the 1990s and reinvented a style that worked well with acrylic and wood in 2004. The last six years have been his most prolific, being divided between drawing and painting. Opening a music, book and art store in 2002 allowed him more time to manipulate his work schedule and market his work.

As the first of our many evenings together came to a close, I asked him about his current inspiration for art, as one can definitely see an evolution of style and subject matter over time. Dean, with his characteristic forthcoming style, explains: “Most of the subject matter of my work blurs the lines of fiction and non-fiction pretty evenly, probably having more to do with truth than fact. Much of the subject matter is music inspired, but much has been drawn from imagination and dreams. Many of the symbols that reappear in my work may be drawn from symbolism, but the lines that divide them are so muddy that they should not be overanalyzed. I don’t like explaining my own work and always find a way to avoid it.”

His daughter Christa and son-in-law Israel suddenly appear from the upstairs loft apartment that they live in, directly above the store. I say hello, and remember the hour-long drive home, up the Needmore Road and through the gorgeous desolation that inspires my own creative life, and realize I need to be going. As Christa and Israel leave the store, he tells me one last thing: “I draw a lot of inspiration from my wife and four children and the unique creativity of each member of my family. Most of my work is done with my family around. This seems more natural than working in solitude. I’m also inspired by surrounding myself with creative people. I’ve grown to hate the educational system in this country, which minimizes the importance of the arts and continually promotes competition and class structures. All of us draw as children, and most of us abandon creativity due to the guilt-ridden social forces at work in the hands of this country’s educators.”

This is plenty of food for thought on the long drive home.

(The folk art of Dean Williams is currently on display at The Wilderness Society’s downtown Sylva office. It will be featured there as part of the town’s Art after Dark series on Friday, June 4, beginning at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public. For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


Like dimly-lit rhododendron tunnels or ancient sphagnum-layered bogs, creek bends are special places that invariably precipitate beauty.

Sitting in the blue-gray shadows of my porch, I watch lower Lands Creek flow by on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Down past the old outhouse, the creek bends southeastwardly and with mindless precision slices like a blade into a bluff of hornblende gneiss. Random glints of low-slanted evening light trace the graceful arc of the bend.

Horneblende is an aluminum silicate of iron and magnesium that may contain potassium. On slopes and in creek bends where flora is especially varied and lush, horneblende gneiss is often the key ingredient.

The bluff Lands Creek has been sculpting for thousands of years is shaded by a dense canopy composed of basswood, slippery elm, various white and red oak species, butternut, beech, striped and red maple, silverbell, serviceberry, black cherry, dogwood, ironwood, and various species of hickory. The under story is composed of rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, and dog-hobble. There are grape vines and tangles of greenbrier. Ferns that come to mind are cinnamon, Christmas, New York, glade, lady, hay-scented, ebony spleenwort, winged beech, and maidenhair. There are mosses, liverworts, sedges, ground pine, and grasses. The spring wildflowers are prolific.

In other words, the factors that created a bend in a creek exposed various levels of a mountainside containing horneblende gneiss and, in the process, also created a small natural garden of great beauty, without any “help” whatsoever from any person.

My favorite tree in the bend is a good-sized butternut ... the perfect tree for this setting. The butternut walnut (Juglans cinerea), which some people call white walnut, is surrounded by several of its close cousins, the ever-present black walnuts (J. nigra). But you can distinguish the smaller butternut walnut in a heartbeat.

Butternut has a large terminal leaflet, whereas black walnut has either a small terminal leaflet or no terminal leaflet at all. The bark of mature butternut walnut trees is gray-white and divided into deep furrows that form a characteristic rough diamond-shaped pattern. Its leaves and fruit drop early revealing conspicuous, 3-lobed (inversely triangular) leaf scars on twigs, each of which is surrounded by a raised, downy, gray pad or “eyebrow.” These scars make the leaf scars look for all the world like a ram’s face.

Unlike black walnut — which bears dark-green rounded fruits that turn dark black-brown — butternut walnut displays oblong fleshy light-green fruits that turn a light-brown buttery color with maturity.

Cherokees traditionally used the inner bark as a carthartic and harvested the nuts as food. To this day, they make a black dye to color basket splints from butternut roots and carve the soft wood for masks and other items. Mountaineers used the inner bark and fruit husks to obtain a yellow or orange agent to dye homespuns; hence, during the Civil War backwoods Confederate troops dressed in homespun “uniforms” of butternut-dyed cloth became known as “Butternuts.” In country churches here in the mountains, an altar carved of a satiny light-brown wood and displaying bands of paler sapwood might well be made of butternut.

Unfortunately, butternut walnut — like so many tree species — is being infested by a killing agent. In the butternut’s instance, the agent is a fungus first identified during the late 1960s in eastern North America. This canker has now spread throughout the entire range of the tree from Minnesota south to Arkansas and from New England south into Georgia.

In Charles E. Little’s The Dying of the Trees: The Pandemic in America’s Forests (Viking, 1995), the lens-shaped cankers that are formed when a tiny fungus spore enters the tree through an injured limb or trunk are described as “necrotic lesions of the bark and cambium layer” that “spread throughout the tree, even to the nut husks, eventually girdling the main limbs and trunk and causing the tree to die. The death is slow, taking several years, but certain.”

For the time being, however, the evening light that glints off the arc of water below our place is still refracted by the patterns in the bark of the butternut tree … diamonds in a near-perfect creek bend.

George Ellison wrote the biographical introductions for the reissues of two Appalachian classics: Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders and James Mooney’s History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. In June 2005, a selection of his Back Then columns was published by The History Press in Charleston as Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 1262, Bryson City, N.C., 28713, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Researchers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park need volunteers to help map stands of ash trees and look for signs of the deadly Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer has been spreading and is now as close as Knox County, Tenn. It often travels undetected in firewood.

Volunteers will learn how to identify ash and other common trees, set up a scientific plot, and use a GPS unit. Data will provide a baseline so rangers can monitor stands of ash for the infestation.

There are three volunteer days: Saturday, Aug. 28, at Smokemont Campground outside Cherokee; Saturday, Sept. 11, at Oconaluftee outside Cherokee; and Saturday Sept. 25, at Deep Creek outside Bryson City. The field activity will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The volunteers should be prepared to hike up to five miles.

RSVP Ranger Susan Simpson at 865.436.1200, ext. 762.


The famed mountain bike trails of Tsali will get a workover this fall thanks to federal stimulus funding.

Vegetation will be trimmed back 4 feet on both sides from the center of the trail and 10-feet overhead, and areas with poor drainage will be fixed. A local contractor won the bid to perform the work on the 27-mile trail system.

Work will be done only on weekdays, and only short sections will be closed at any given time, which will be identified at trailheads.

“While this maintenance work is very important for ensuring a sustainable trail system, we have tried to minimize the short-term impact to the users as much as possible,” said District Ranger Steve Lohr.


The ultimate triathlon for outdoors adventure lovers — with the triple combo of paddling, trail running and mountain biking — will come to the trails of Tsali this weekend, Aug. 28 and 29.

The Tsali Challenge will be held at the Tsali Recreation Area outside of Bryson City.

The course kicks off with a 3-mile paddle on Fontana Lake, a 5-mile trail run and a 12-mile mountain-bike ride. Race solo on Saturday, or with a team on Sunday.

Racers can use whatever boat they please, but times will be calculated based on a formula that compensates for faster boats versus slower boats, thus leveling the playing field.

352.873.9279 or


The Franklin Blue Planet 5K for Clean Water will be held Saturday, Sept. 4, along the Little Tennessee Greenway.

The Interact Club at Franklin High School is putting on the race to raise money for the Blue Planet Network, which brings clean water to rural communities all over the world. Roughly one-sixth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water.

The race will start from the Tassee Shelter on the greenway at 9 a.m. There will be a 1 mile fun run/walk as well.

Overall male and female winners get a pair of running shoes from Brooks. Entry fee is $20 in advance or $25 on race day and includes a light brunch featuring fresh fruit, freshly-baked bread and gourmet hummus donated by Riverblaze Bakery and Jer’s Kitchen.  First 85 to register get an eco-friendly T-shirt made in the U.S. from 100 percent recycled materials for the first 85 registered participants.

Go to or email Canyon Woodard at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


A 110-acre tract along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville has been protected thanks to the longtime landowner selling the land to the Conservation Trust of North Carolina at a bargain rate.

The Conservation Trust in turn plans to deed the tract over the parkway. This is on top of another 35-acre tract on Mt. Lyn Lowry, also along the Parkway outside Waynesville, that was conserved this summer.

The landowner, Joe Arrington, remembers the coming of the Parkway decades ago, as it passed through his family’s property. Arrington and his friends often explored the construction site on horseback. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Arrington and his wife liked to bring their children to a stream overlooking the parkway.

His continuing affection for the region’s scenery and peacefulness led to his decision to protect it forever.

“Even the locals appreciate it and enjoy the place where you get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the cool mountain air,” Arrington said. “It isn’t something you see once and say, ‘Been there, done that.’”

Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis said the preservation of the tract is especially meaningful as the parkway celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

“Mr. Arrington was here when the parkway began, and he and his family have many happy memories of their time spent in these beautiful mountains. Now, generations of families will cherish their own Blue Ridge Parkway memories thanks to his generous gift,” Francis said.

The tract is highly visible from the section of Parkway north of Balsam Gap — especially from the Waynesville and Saunook overlooks.

Costs associated with the land transaction — a total of $542,358 — were funded by a donation from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, and grants from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Pigeon River Fund.


Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley is hosting a chestnut celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.

The festivities will honor the all-important role of chestnut trees for early Appalachian settlers and efforts to repopulate the mountains with a blight resistant form of the tree.

Attendees can tour the grounds of Cataloochee Ranch and the chestnut orchards. There will be live music by Balsam Range and the Trantham Family. Rob Gudger, a Maggie Valley man who raises wolves, will be there with his animals. There will be kids games, crafts and raffles. Lunches, drinks, fishing and horseback riding will be available for an extra cost.

Chestnuts once comprised nearly a quarter of the trees in the Southern Appalachian forest. Mountain communities depended upon the annual chestnut harvest as a cash crop and as a primary source of forage for their livestock, which were turned loose in the chestnut forests to gorge themselves and fatten up before the harvest. In addition, chestnut wood split straight and was rot resistant, making it ideal for everything from fence posts and barn frames to coffins and shingles.

Cataloochee Ranch is home to an experimental stand of blight-resistant chestnut trees developed by the American Chestnut Foundation. The strain has all the characteristics of the American chestnuts — but has just enough of the Chinese chestnut strain to make it blight resistant.

The chestnut reintroduction effort is a long-range project pushing scientific frontiers for forestry. It is a privately funded effort and contingent on donations. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the nonprofit American Chestnut Foundation.

Tickets are $10 for adults; children 12 and under are free.

828.926.1345 or 828.627.1255 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dinner and auction benefits Chestnut Foundation

A benefit dinner with live music and an auction to support the work of the American Chestnut Foundation will be held at Cataloochee Ranch at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.

The steak dinner is $100 a person or $160 a couple, and includes a year membership to the Foundation.

Auction items include a solid chestnut wood dining table, an original oil painting of the ranch by Jo Ridge Kelly pottery, wrought-iron coat rack, handmade jewelry, Cherry wood end tables and more.

The Waynesville Council of Garden Clubs is helping with the dinner and festival that day. 828.926.1345 or 828.926.1401.


Boating at Tanasee Creek and Wolf Creek lakes will be reduced while Duke Energy repairs a hydroelectric generator below the two lakes.

Both lakes are 18.5 feet below full, rendering the boat ramp at Wolf Lake useless. The current schedule calls for the lakes to begin filling up in mid-November and the generator to be back in operation by mid-December.

Lake levels can be found at or calling 800.829.5253, ext. 5.


The Fireman’s Day 5K will be held in Bryson City Saturday, Sept. 4, in conjunction with the 29th annual Fireman’s Day Street Festival.

The 3.1-mile course starts and finishes at the Bryson City Fire Department. It makes a loop out Deep Creek valley and back for a mostly flat course.

The festival includes face painting, craft exhibits, BBQ, fire truck parade and a Miss Flame contest. Kids can even get rides on the fire trucks.

Cost of the race is $15, or $23 with a T-shirt. Proceeds from the race support the Bryson City fire department.


Growers looking for greenhouse space may find what they need at the Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro, where large greenhouses are heated using energy from methane given off by decomposing trash.

There is more than 4,000 square feet of greenhouse space available for rent, either by one grower or an organization. One-year lease begins in January and is renewable for up to a total of three years.

Biodiesel serves as a backup fuel source. Tenants share other utility costs and the cost of a rainwater collection system that provides most the water needs.

828.631.0271 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or


A reading and book signing for the new anthology Echoes Across the Blue Ridge will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28, at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville.  

The anthology includes a variety of stories, essays, and poems by writers living in and inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The list of authors includes Kathryn Stripling Byer, Gary Carden, Thomas Rain Crowe and many others.

Local authors scheduled to appear on Aug. 28 include Dick Michener, JC Walkup, George Ivey, Glenda Beall, and Jane Young.

The book is now available for sale at local bookstores, including Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville, City Lights in Sylva, and Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café in Asheville. For more information,


Spine care for residents of Macon and adjoining counties will be available in Franklin beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7 with the opening of Mission Outpatient Spine Center at Angel Medical Center. A grand opening celebration will be held at noon on Sept. 7 in the Outpatient Medicine Department where the service will be provided.

The center will be staffed by three board-certified Surgeons from Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery Center in Asheville who specialize in the treatment of spinal conditions.

Services will initially be provided on Tuesdays and Fridays. These include physician evaluations, MRI and CT diagnostic testing, treatments, and physical therapy provided by Angel physical therapists under the clinical direction of the surgeons., or


Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning will be offered from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays from Sept. 14 through Oct. 7. This four-week course will be held at Haywood Community College in the Freedlander Building in Room 204.

Learn how to take a business idea, improve or expand an existing business, and walk through the following steps: Self-employment assessments, the business plan essentials, legal structures, community analysis, marketing research and feasibility, targeting the customer and meeting customer needs, analyzing the competition, taxes and licenses, utilizing professionals, computerized cash flow analysis and financial feasibility.

Allan Steinberg, REAL certified instructor, will facilitate this class. Steinberg is also the executive director of Smoky Mountain Development Corp. and works with the SBA 504 loan program.

$65. Register by visiting Enrollment Management in the HCC Student Center building. 828.627.4505.


Of the 1,450 Western Carolina University freshmen set to move in Aug. 20, about 375 will score a room in the brand new Blue Ridge Hall.

The hall is the second of a pair of residence halls built as part of a $50 million construction project. Balsam Hall opened last fall to about 425 students.

Blue Ridge Hall features a state-of-the-art conference center space and connects to adjacent Balsam Hall by an arch that offers a student study area overlooking the Alumni Tower and lawn of A.K. Hinds University Center. The project was developed as part of a plan to create a more pedestrian-friendly academic quad around the Alumni Tower. Construction is now under way on the quad’s outdoor elements, which include additional landscaping, walkways and a fountain.


Dr. Paul Cutting, an orthopedic doctor at Western Carolina Orthopedic Specialists who specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery, will offer a free hand screening from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Sept. 9, at the outpatient therapy department in the west wing of Harris Regional Hospital.

Dr. Cutting diagnoses and treats fractures, dislocations, nerve and tendon repairs, reconstructions and grafts, sports- and work-related injuries, and other hand and upper extremities issues. Three Harris Regional occupational therapists — Jamie Kelly, Anna Walls and Susie Witty –– will also participate in the screening.



Lake Junaluska Assembly invites youth and children to become peacemakers at the 2010 Lake Junaluska Peace Celebration: Mosaic of Hope, Sept. 18 through 19. The unique two-day event features leadership from children’s activist Jeni Stepanek, as well as youth and children facilitators.

Stepanek is a noted advocate for children’s and families’ needs in health and education, and a well-respected motivational speaker.

Youth Celebration participants will engage in hands-on learning experiences with various organizations, including Paper Clips: The Holocaust Project, Invisible Children and Creative Expressions for Peace. Younger children will participate in artistic responses and learn techniques to verbalize their feelings instead of acting on them, especially with regard to coping with stress, anger, and bullying.

Adults, youth and children are also encouraged to participate in the Peace Walk and Festival of Peace, which bridges the Peace Celebration with the annual Lake Junaluska Peace Conference that runs Sept. 19 through 21. or call 828.454.6656.


For the second time in three years, the Jackson County Child Support Enforcement Program has achieved the ranking of No. 1 in the state, according to a report released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for fiscal year 2009-10.

Nine categories of performance are evaluated by state CSE officials throughout the year. These include items such as paternity establishment rate, percentage of cases under court order, manpower utilization, and total amount of money collected. Each category carries a different weight in determining the final score. Jackson County ended the year with a total quality score of 726, which was 29 points ahead of the second-place county. There were 88 county and state-operated CSE programs in North Carolina in fiscal year 2009-10.  

In Jackson County, Child Support Enforcement is a service provided by the Department of Social Services. The local team includes Supervisor Christi Hooper, Agent Joan Shepherd, Processing Assistant Onyx Lozano, and agency attorney Mary Holliday.

“Christi, Joan, Onyx and Mary are incredibly focused and committed to the simple but highly important mission of collecting as much child support money as possible for the benefit of Jackson County’s children,” said Bob Cochran, DSS director.


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